Deeyah: The Muslim Madonna

MMW thanks Jehanzeb for the tip!

Meet Deeyah, (real name Deepika) a Pakistani-Norwegian R&B/rock/pop diva who’s been on the music scene for a few years now. Trained in classical South Asian singing, known for her voice and her work to better the lives of women, her talent has been overshadowed by dark controversy along the way. A Pakistani by origin and born in Oslo, Norway, Deeyah began her singing career young. And now she’s making a mark in the music scene. She now lives in the U.S., mainly due to the threats she has faced in Norway and the U.K., where she fled to from Norway.

Why the death threats? In her native Norway where she began her career, many in the Muslim community felt her choosing a career in entertainment and dressing provocatively while performing were un-Islamic for a girl who identifies as Muslim. They felt she was setting a poor example for Muslim girls in the community. Some condemned her, as did the leader of Oslo’s Islamic Cultural Centre. Some went as far as sending her death threats, which this leader saw as wrong but understandable. Death threats, insults, harassment, and even physical attacks were understandable to him, but led her to decide to leave Norway for the U.K, in fear of her life. However, in the U.K. extremists began harassing and threatening to kill her as well, leading her to the US where she is now recording an album to be released this year. Yet, the controversy has not left her, and this controversy has been because she is a Muslim woman revealing her body.

Deeyah is a singer, composer, human rights activist and director. She wears many hats. As a human rights activist she is a staunch supporter of ICAHK the ‘International Campaign Against Honour Killings.’ Additionally, she is a supporter of ASHRAM, a women’s shelter in Birmingham, U.K. She works to promote freedom of expression among artists around the world. Finally, she has also started a project to encourage young Muslim female rappers.

But one may ask, what is so controversial about Deeyah? Although the majority of Deeyah’s music is not about Islam or being Muslim, just being a Muslim woman and scantily clad on screen has been enough to attract the ire of many. It seems she is constantly hounded by religious extremists for bearing skin and dancing provocatively, often with men.

As a result of all this harassment and the anger which she felt Deeyah released a song and video, entitled “What Will It Be,” which does speak of Muslims and what she sees as hypocrisy in the Muslim community. About the video, Deeyah tells us:

My core message in this video is the right of a woman to choose her own path and express herself without the fear of violence or cultural excommunication. This video and song is the first time I have directly addressed the problems I’ve faced being a female Muslim recording artist. After years of being called a “whore,” “devil,” and “bringer of shame” by people who use Islam as their shield, I have decided to let this video speak for me.
In it, you see Deeyah in sexy attire dancing in the streets of Mumbai. During the filming of which she was followed and harassed by Muslim men. Odd, considering Mumbai is home to Bollywood – where women are shown in far skimpier clothing. However, what many deemed most offensive was seeing Deeyah in a burqa walking toward a swimming pool only to take off the burqa at the pool to reveal a bikini clad body. The reason for including this scene Deeyah says is to highlight the hypocrisy of many Muslims in which a scantily clad woman is more offensive than honour killings. Throughout the video, Deeyah has images of women killed for honour projected on her bare back to show her support for those women.

Additionally, in the video and in her interviews she criticizes religiousness based on words not actions and spirituality. From lyrics of “What Will It Be:”

From the land of the free to the jewel of the empire
Does the truth only come from the top of a holy man’s spire?
From three paces back, covered head to toe
Are the rules just for the masses and written just for show

And from an interview she says: “Islam…is very, very, very personal and it has to be honest….If it’s not here (pointing to heart) and you don’t mean it then don’t say it. Don’t claim something and…just show off…”

However, some do say that her message is appropriate, but the way in which she presents it is not. From an article:

Hoda Fahmy, who works with a group that provides education to Muslim women in Canada, says Deeyah’s message is lost along with the singer’s clothing. “A lot of us are working for women’s rights, particularly in the Muslim world. I think we have more self-respect than to dance around naked to make our point,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that she has to use those means, because it’s true — women are not able to speak up in a lot of these countries.”

Point taken (though Deeyah is never naked in her videos). And self-respect is not always portrayed by clothing; there are many ways of spreading the message. Staunch opposition and threats from extremists do help in making one even more determined to fight their fight in the way they deem appropriate. And Deeyah is using her career to raise awareness of an issue – not raising awareness by choosing this career.

It is clear that Islam is in the forefront of Deeyah’s life, whether she wants it to be or not. It is also clear that she has a lot of respect for Islam. Muslims, in her view, are the ones who need to change and are the ones with flaws, not Islam itself. It is unfortunate that her progress and well-being must be hindered by self-righteous extremists who feel entitled to force others to ‘behave.’ Her most controversial video brings to light important and disturbing problems in the Muslim community.

Check out the video which has created the most recent controversy.

“What Will It Be – Deeyahcide Mix”

Deeyah ft. Young Maylay

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  • Coolred38

    Music is a very real part of the world today…its one of the main avenues of self expression and getting your message across…why not go that rout if its the one that best suits your talents. By harrassing her for her choices…and I mean HER choices…Muslims are just proving that we are as intolerant of each other as we are of “others”…Even other Muslim women see her as using “naked” to get her point across…meanwhile where did it say she was ever naked. If even Muslim women are willing to point and criticise…then how much harder is the job that needs doing?

  • Anonymous

    Am I the only one that has rolled my eyes at starlets like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears calling themselves Christian?Deeyah should add a cresent moon pendant to her image. Anybody ask her if she’s praying five a day? Oh no, that is inappropriate right? ~Brooke AKA Ummbadier

  • Safiya Outlines

    Salaam Alaikum, “Deeyah in a burqa walking toward a swimming pool only to take off the burqa at the pool to reveal a bikini clad body.”And this exposes hypocrisy? Yeah right! Nothing at all to do with it being a total orientalist fantasy, then.The whole concept of dancing provactively being somehow liberating is actually old and tired. If her music was that good she wouldn’t need to pose like a second rate Britney in order to promote it.As for raising awareness, again there are other ways of doing that.Sending her death threats is wrong and horrible. However, portraying her as some ideal of muslimah womenhood when her whole career is about pleasing “the man” just like any other pop star, is a bit too much to swallow.

  • Duniya

    Ummbadier:Whether she prays or not, or how many times she prays is no one’s business but hers. Why would it matter? Praying does not define a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ Muslim. Many Muslims pray 5 times a day but then committ horrendous acts against humanity. safiya outlines:No doubt there are other ways of exposing the hypocrisy that exists in the Muslim community, and it indeed does, but if this is the way she choose to show it, then we should perhaps pay attention to the hypocrisy she points out rather than to her clothing. If we as Muslim women start discrediting other Muslim women based on their clothing then we will never learn from each other. However, I do understand your critique. It does get tiring to see women expose their bodies to gain success. But we don’t know her motivation. However, I did not intend to present her as an ‘ideal’ of Muslim womenhood. No one really is an ideal as we all have different definitions of the ‘ideal’ Muslim woman. But I did present her as a Muslim woman as any other, who is a member of the Muslim ummah, who has the right to say what she wants without facing therats, and who’s ideas and opinions should be heard.

  • Safiya Outlines

    Salaam Alaikum,I see your point Duniya, but I don’t need a popstar to tell me that honour killing is wrong.Of course it matters as a Muslim if she prays or not. It is an obligatory part of the religion (to state otherwise is kufr and I do not ever use that word lightly) and it should be an act we are happy to state that we carry out.Also, I do believe that modesty is a part of the religion and the beauty of Islam is that it is the faith within your heart that is affirmed by your actions.Plus the whole “Mean Muslim men threaten me” plus the “I’m fighting against mean Muslim men who commit honour killings” coupled with the orientalist imagery, makes me think she’s aimed at a different kind of audience all together.Finally:”From three paces back, covered head to toe .”Thanks for furthering that stereotype Deeyah. I’m so grateful.

  • broken mystic

    Salaam,I didn’t think that Duniya was presenting Deeyah as “some ideal of Muslimah Womenhood.” From what I understand, this blog is about presenting various images of Muslim women in the media, right? I also honestly think that saying Deeyah’s career is all about “pleasing ‘the man’” is very accusatory. I may not agree with her dress code or the amount of skin she is revealing on screen, but I *can* appreciate the political message that she’s trying to make. It’s true that the wahabi Muslim governments don’t get offended by the honor killings and yet they get so violent and aggressive about how women dress. Stoning or throwing acid on women is very inhumane and barbaric and more of us need to speak out against that.What we all need to learn is that our Islamic community is very diverse, not just in ethnicity, but also in beliefs, interpretations, dress, mannerisms, etc. One of the most fundamental teachings in Islam is to NOT JUDGE one another, so it’s really none of our business to speculate on whether or not someone prays five times a day. As Duniya mentioned, there are many Muslims (especially the Wahabi extremists) who will pray five times a day, and yet will do haram things. Just like so-called devout Catholics who will confess their sins on Sunday, but then engage in sinful activity during the week. What is the significance of prayer if the MEANING and ESSENCE of it is not being carried out and/or put into practice? Prayer is meant to improve the individual.Deeyah has a right to call herself a Muslim and no one can take that away from her. Everyone has a personal relationship with God; no one can say you are “more Muslim” than another person or “less Muslim”. I’d rather see her not objectify herself in music videos since this seems to be the norm in ALL popular music videos around the globe, but the Faith of that individual is personal. Bulleh Shah — the great Sufi poet — once would write things like “burn down the Mosque,” but these verses are taken out of context. His poetry contains symbolic meaning — the Mosque symbolizes the orthodoxy, the hypocrisies of the extremely literal Muslim leaders. He is not saying burn down God’s Home. He is writing in response to those who label the mystics and other Muslims as “heretics” for whatever reason (i.e. poetry, painting, singing, etc.) Perhaps Deeyah’s presentation of herself is REACTIONARY to the extremist death threats and harassment she has received from the Wahabis, in the same way that Sufi poets would write such controversial and border-line “blasphemous” verses against the extremist leaders.The image of Deeyah stripping off her burqa and revealing a bikini symbolizes the two faces of objectification. The Burqa is enforced upon women by the Wahabis, and that in of itself is OBJECTIFYING women. A women exposing herself and appearing half naked on TV is ALSO OBJECTIFYING herself. That’s how I interpret it.Let her be. Not all Muslims are the same and we can’t expect them all to be like us. The Prophet said that we all have to Love one another — that is what a True Believer is. Love is not about changing people into who you want them to be, it’s about accepting them for who they are. Though some of us may disagree with how Deeyah is presenting herself, let’s accept that she’s part of our Ummah. I don’t think she claimed anywhere the she is representing the entire Muslim Ummah.

  • Anonymous

    You claim to want to include “ALL Muslim women,” but you’re interested in opinion that agree with yours. I’m sick of your website. And she’s not showing support for anybody, she’s USING THEM.

  • Duniya

    Broken Mystic. ALL excellent points. I don’t think I could have said it better myself.Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    “As Duniya mentioned, there are many Muslims (especially the Wahabi extremists) who will pray five times a day, and yet will do haram things.”Righto. And would she be praying her five, she could go ahead and put herself in that category. Hate it with your heart, your tongue and your hand. I’m not gonna propose a beating down to anyone, so don’t bother going there. I will use my hand to demonstrate what my heart and tongue hate. I hate “Muslim by culture.” I spend a great deal of time explaining to people that it is a religion–with fundamental beliefs–not a culture. I also explain that we all practice to various degrees and Deeyah is making a very public display of some aspects of how she isn’t practicing. It ain’t a birthright people. And it isn’t compulsory. “From what I understand, this blog is about presenting various images of Muslim women in the media, right?”Right again. And then we “comment” or discuss. Since she identifies herself as Muslim, she meets the criteria. Love and Peace,~Brooke

  • Anonymous

    A couple of points- although Deeyah is free to do whatever she wants,let us accept what she is doing is sinful .Now the usual ‘liberal or progressive’ response would be who are you to say that she is sinning and what she is doing is a ‘sin’ according to you only.Broken mystic”It’s true that the wahabi Muslim governments don’t get offended by the honor killings and yet they get so violent and aggressive about how women dress. Stoning or throwing acid on women is very inhumane and barbaric and more of us need to speak out against that.”how many ‘wahabi’ muslim governments are there anyway ? * The Burqa is enforced upon women by the Wahabis, and that in of itself is OBJECTIFYING womenThe burqa and its variations have been present even before ‘wahabis’ and in places where there are no or very few wahabis.Wearing a Burqa is not a sin anyway .Love is not about changing people into who you want them to be, it’s about accepting them for who they are.Is this a islamic injunction ?We muslims should enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong If someone is drinking alcohol, should we not point out that drinking alcohol is Haraam ?He/she may not chose to follow the advice but it does not mean we shoould not point out that alcohol is Haraam

  • Melinda

    I think the word “Madonna” might have helped convey the idea of Deeyah as an “ideal of Muslim womanhood.” “Madonna” referring not to the pop star but its original meaning, of course.I don’t know how to feel about this topic. I’m not a fan of the sexualization and objectification of women and glorification of drugs that hip-hop music videos present, even if the singer objectifying herself is a Muslim woman.Which brings up another point. I absolutely understand your point, Brooke, about “Muslim by culture.” Being a convert to Islam, I see it as a religion and not a culture. But as much as I may believe that, not everyone shares my view. If Deeyah’s received death threats for being Muslim doing what she does, she can’t be stripped of the Muslim label, even if she isn’t practicing. (Which we have no place to determine.)It’s an interesting topic to explore, regardless of how one views Deeyah’s music or personal life. Although I’m not personally a Deeyah fan, I’m disturbed by the anger in some of the comments. Issues like who is part of the Muslim community, deconstructing the burqa scene, whether Deeyah helps the image of Muslim women, etc. need not get so heated that we forget the opinions we have in common. I’m uncomfortable by how much this feels like a battle, two sides set against each other.

  • Coolred38

    I find it interesting that Muslims will say something like…”well if she were a true Muslim she wouldnt be doing that”…or something similar…as if Muslims should be perfect and not ever come close to sin. Being Muslim is like being Christian…being Jewish…being whatever…we follow a certain path on our way to finding God…sometimes we stick to the path and can follow it with our eyes closed…other times we stray and get lost and need a light shined to show us the way back…but we never stop being Muslim, Christian, Jewish …whatever…unless we choose to stop believing in those forms of religion and take on another belief…or none at all. What Im saying is…she may not be your idea of a “good” Muslim woman…but your seeing her as only Muslim…and nothing else…as if Muslims cannot stray and still be Muslim…as if Muslims cannot believe differently and still be Muslims…as if Muslims should all be exactly the same to be considered Muslim….you must remember that she…like each of us…is first and foremost, Human…then female…then Muslim. Muslims, or rather the idea of Muslims as presented in the Quran, might be perfect creatures who do not sin and never even consider it…but humans and females are not such perfect creatures…Your idea of sin…could be the path Ive taken…rather than turn off the light and close the door(complain)…why not shine the light and lead me to safety? Thats all Im saying….She may not be getting any points or adjar…for belly dancing her way across the big screen…but then again…maybe her intentions to do “the right thing” or to “get the message across” is the more important issue with God…how do we know…God says our intentions are everything right…sorry for the rambling…and this wasnt aimed at any specific “you”..just in general.

  • Safiya Outlines

    Salaam Alaikum,Firstly, no one here has said that Deeyah is not a Muslim. Criticism is not the same as takfir-ing.Melinda – I love the concept of this website, I really do. What I get tired of (and I think some other commentators do too), is when we see women presented here who are commiting something openly sinful in Islam and we are all meant to stand round and clap:To generalise: Look! Here’s Muslim women fornicating/drinking/engaging various other sins. How diverse and refreshing!So what if they don’t actually do any of the required acts in Islam? They’re just as good a Muslim as you, in fact they’re probably better, as you conservatives are just a bunch of brainwashed sheep anyway. It makes us angry, because we are meant to be accepted here, instead it’s like we have to justify our religious beliefs all over again.

  • broken mystic

    Dear Safiya,I think you are misinterpreting with your sarcasm. No one here said that she’s a better Muslim than anyone us. I hope you read my response where I said we are in NO POSITION to say who is a better Muslim than another. I think that’s not only judgmental, but also very regressive in terms of Faith.The Message of Islam was delivered to humanity so that we could be BETTER human beings. Allah says everything that He teaches us is for OUR benefit. No one is perfect, but perfection is not the point. It’s about being brave enough to acknowledge your mistakes and flaws, and IMPROVING upon them. This life is a journey of learning, and through our experiences, our interactions with others, and our spiritual practices, we gain a better understand about who WE are, who GOD is, and WHERE we are going.With this in mind, we don’t see Deeyah boasting about being the “best Muslim”. I don’t like the way she objectifies herself at all and if she said that ISLAM is a religion that oppresses women, then of course I would speak out against her. But she is not saying Islam oppresses and objectifies women, she is saying that extremist Muslims are (both men and women alike). If you watch her interviews, she says that she will defend a woman’s CHOICE to wear hijaab. She supports that, but if a woman is being FORCED to wear the burqa (like in Saudi Arabia), then she is certainly going to speak out against it. I noticed someone wrote on here: “I’m sick of your website”. This is the problem the Muslim Ummah has as a whole. We are not united. We argue and fight over these issues because we cannot learn to accept one another. We want everyone to think like us, behave like us, dress like us, and believe like us. Even when there’s a war going on overseas where military forces from the west are BOMBING, INVADING, and OPPRESSING Muslim countries, we are still arguing. We are still disconnected. We are still not united. Why?The Truth of the matter is that if a skimpy dressed Muslim woman and a hijaab-wearing Muslim woman attend a speech and someone insults the Prophet — they will defend one another, they will stand together and speak out against it. I have seen this happen with my own eyes, I have seen people set aside their differences for the greater benefit: Unity.And that is what Allah wants us to do. He wants us to be One Ummah, One Heart, One Family. Why should we make someone feel like they are not welcomed? These individuals can feel so hurt that they may leave Islam all together. I have seen this happen too.Anyway, I apologize if anyone thought my “deconstruction” of the Burqa scene was argumentative. I was simply sharing my own analysis. I wasn’t being confrontational.Salaam/Peace

  • Duniya

    safiya outline, anonymouses:We cannot present one type of Muslim woman and ignore the many others. There is no one ideal Muslim woman. Only God can judge us. As coolred said, maybe Deeyah’s intentions of helping others are more important to God than the clothes on her body. Who decides who is the ideal Muslim woman without being exlusive and exclusionary? Exclusion of women goes against the essence of feminism. In keeping with feminist beliefs I do not make moral judgements about Muslim women. Who am I to make moral judgements after all? We do not know their specific situations; we do not know their intentions. Therefore, we are not in the position to make such judgements. As I’m sure you’ve noticed we critique the images of Muslim women – not Muslim women themselves (unless they are the ones promoting stereotypical and hateful images of Muslim women). We are not here to preach about Islam nor to teach people what Islam is. Within the global Muslim community there are a vast variety of interpretations and we are not in the business of telling readers which one to follow. If the interpretation works to enforce patriarchy, then yes, that I will critique. As a Muslim feminist I feel an obligation to critique patriachy and the reinforcement of power differentials between men and women. Please keep in mind that these are interpretations that have been presented by people – usually men for whom such patriarchal interpretations work well to maintain there power in society.Keeping all that in mind, we do hope you find a space here on MMW. After all, feminism is about inclusion of all those who believe in equality. We ask that you remain a part of the dialogue but respect other women’s choices and do not judge their morality. We never know what is in the hearts and minds of women. We desire a non-judgemental space where women like Deeyah will feel just as welcome as you.

  • Anonymous

    Duniya-I really appreciate the work you sisters are doing here and especially that you are providing a forum for discussion.I don’t see in the comments where anyone suggested that you only present the Ideal Muslimah (shudder). I thought you post, we comment/discuss and we all get some new ideas–no? Yeah?I believe she is being used by the media in the same way that self-identified Christian poplets are used. Because I love me some Muslim women, it is doubley unfortunate that a Muslim woman is allowing herself to be used along with the played out, oppressed Muslim images we are all so tired of seeing. Many Muslims, like myself, find it unfortunate that Muslims bring themselves down to the unlevel playing field of the secular western context, rather than remaining on higher ground. I mean, why not a video full of imagery of acid burn victims, hanging Muslimahs, honor killings, etc? Because those would anger Muslims and NOT SELL in western forums. Making a typical naked chic video interspliced with some quasi-political images will at least sell–while angery some Muslims. $$$ Yes, I said naked, because I don’t need to see your nipples or your other bits to consider you naked.Deeyah’s faith is only between her and Allah. Of course we don’t know her motivation and again, no one is takiring her. It is just rather awkward–embarassing–to watch such a public display of where she appears (emphasize appears) to be in her iman. And how many Muslim girls are going to emulate her? Aren’t we all disgusted with little American girls Pusscat Doll, Bratz and Britneyed-out. Well, I’m gonna be super disgusted if any little girls want to look just like Deeyah.It is also ironic to call her the Muslim Madonna since Madonna continues to use loaded Christian (especially Catholic) imagery in her work, but also attends Kabbalah centers. Her religious identity doesn’t seem so clear anymore. But she clearly uses people’s emotions around religion to sell, sell, sell. And that was kind of my round the way point. “Look! Another hoochie looking thing being objectified in the media. This one says she’s Muslim. How novel.” Safiya really nailed it with “If her music was that good she wouldn’t need to pose like a second rate Britney in order to promote it.”–the song is lame. As is the lipsynching. But I’m sure someone is banking on the kairos.Love and Peace,~Brooke

  • Duniya

    Brooke:I understand your points. And of course you have the right to criticize. Regarding “Ideal Muslimah”:safiya outline had said:”However, portraying her as some ideal of muslimah womenhood when her whole career is about pleasing “the man” just like any other pop star, is a bit too much to swallow.”And some other comments suggest that people are upset that Deeyah was even written about. And if she was why wasn’t she criticized for her clothing, music etc. That is why I said it is not my place or right to make moral judgements about the Muslim women we cover.btw…what is a ‘kairo?’You may have your own definition of naked and that is fine. But where do we draw the line for collective definitions? If she was wearing tight jeans and tank tops but not showing her belly or cleavage would that be better? Or would people deem that inappropriate too? And what if there are Muslim women in this forum who dress like that, are they not qualified enough to speak up on issues of Muslim women? Because there are lots of Muslim women who wear shorts, short skirts, tank tops etc. True, there is a line somewhere. I am not sure how to define it though. Objectification and sexualization are not synonymous. And both I am against. But objectification and sexualization are not about nakedness. There are many ways a woman can be objectified and sexualized. It’s not about how much of her body one can see, but rather what her body is seen as. For example, is her body a man’s property for him to control her clothing? Then she is an object – not a human. If he thinks of her as someone to have sex with whenever he wills and that she must serve him when he wants, then she is being sexualized. A woman who is covered from head to toe can be just as objectified and sexualized as a half naked woman.

  • eyes serene

    Assalamu alaikom,”The whole concept of dancing provactively being somehow liberating is actually old and tired.”Oh, this is so true. I wasn’t aware of this woman. I think the comparison to Madonna (the singer) is quite apt. Interesting conversation stemming from this article. I don’t like the oppression of women in any form, so to me, her running around in a bikini is not what I consider progress. Naturally, it goes without saying that she shouldn’t be treated so harshly for it, though. I love this blog, it’s so informative. Thank you for that.

  • Natalia

    Hi guys. I try to refrain from writing personal stuff in the comments’ sections of people’s blogs, but the entry here and the responses have moved me in that direction. Please forgive the verbal diarrhea. Although I am an editor of a magazine, I am not presently speaking in its representation. Now, I’m Christian, but as an Orthodox, I find lots of cultural similarities with Islam (especially now that the Orthodox Church is having a theological revival). I also live in a Muslim country, so…Clothing issues are one of the main reasons why I don’t go to church, or interact with people much when it comes to religious topics anymore. Basically, I think some of us are just allergic to the merest hint or suggestion that our appearance is up for review. It’s one of the reasons why I have problems with many branches of American feminism as well – being “too feminine,” “too fashionable,” “too provocative,” means you’re insecure, or mentally deficient, or just haven’t seen the light as of yet. I don’t feel comfortable when I dress modestly. It isn’t me. I like splashy patterns, decolletage, big chunky jewelry, and showing off my legs. Some of this is related to sexuality, but some of it also has to do with a certain tradition. Most women in my family are like this. I’ve written extensively about my grandmother, a doctor who sent 56 years of her life working, and has combined a professional look with fashion. She’d never leave the house without her lipstick, her heels, an up-do, a tight skirt, etc.I refuse to believe that someone who was as respected, successful, and happy in the things she did was some kind of pathetic “tart.” My grandmother saved lives. Anyone who judges her appearance can stuff it you-know-where. Even the most conservatively dressed woman is still an object of simultaneous desire and scorn. I try not to make that my problem. I’ve been hit on and sexually harassed while on my way to church with a scarf and no make-up, I’ve been groped while hidden in the confines of an enormous winter coat. I refuse to accommodate anyone at this point. If someone wants to say “you’re not a good Christian woman,” I no longer engage that person. I refuse to have my life codified by fundamentalists of any stripe. Fundamentalism is all about governing the female body – alternatively asking us to cover up and/or bare it all. I am not going to be part of that game. Doesn’t mean that people will stop judging – but I *can* stop responding.Deeyah is obviously on a journey of her own. I expect the death threats have only driven her further. If someone threatens your existence, you react viscerally. Now, she doesn’t own Islam. No one owns Islam. No one owns Christianity either. A faith is as diverse as the people who engage in it. This might suck sometimes (I constantly get embarrassed by fellow Orthodoxians), but that’s the way it is.I think that the most people can do is practice their faith the best way they know how, and leave the ultimate judgment up to God.

  • Safiya Outlines

    Natalia – You don’t understand, I think, what modesty means to Brooke and me and other women like us.Speaking for myself, modesty inwardly and outwardly is an essential and beautiful part of our faith. You might not share that view, but you have no right to claim that such a viewpoint is the sole preserve of ‘controlling’ fundamentalists.


    Wow, I’ve hesistated to comment on “The Muslim Madonna” because when I first heard of her I was a bit underwhelmed. For one thing, when people “hype up” a singer talking about his/her training an expectation of vocal brilliance arises in me-yet, in today’s music industry I’m almost always ever so disappointed. Deeyah is no exception! My word, where did all the training go???As far as her clothing (or lack there of) I could really care less. Like many of the sisters said on here-it’s the same ol’ same ol’. I’m not going to condemn her and I’m not going to applaud her either. I think that duniya made some excellent points about what it means to be objectified (clothed or unclothed). I hear you Duniya yet I’m also sickened by the ongoing parade of women’s bodies. When I search my qalb -that center of myself-I just don’t feel cool with Deeyah’s image. I have no power to make claims about people’s beliefs or what they say they are-but if I am to be honest I cannot say that I am not bored as hell of this stuff. Eroticism and beauty is so much more than this banal money driven crap-o-la.

  • Natalia

    ***Speaking for myself, modesty inwardly and outwardly is an essential and beautiful part of our faith. You might not share that view, but you have no right to claim that such a viewpoint is the sole preserve of ‘controlling’ fundamentalists.***Where exactly have I claimed that? Please read over my words. Modesty means different things to different people. What I was talking about is the idea of prescribed modesty, a selective definition of which becomes a standard that’s being arbitrarily enforced across cultures.Holding oneself to a personal standard is the prerogative of every woman (I do it, you do it, Brooke does it, and Deeyah does it too).

  • gulnari

    Salam – This is my first time commenting here.I was also very underwhelmed and unimpressed by Deeyah’s video. Not shocked, not offended, just really bored with the sensationalism of it all. To be honest, I don’t think it achieves anything for anyone, except stir a whole lot of stale controversy and chicken feathers. And what’s up with those cheesy metal vocals in the background? Horrible!

  • Heba

    Modesty has different meanings to different people. Muslims are not one homogenous group. It is diverse. You have different sects, different interpretations – as many as there are muslims.

    So to stipulate that one specific definition of modesty is defining for muslim women as a whole is presumptious.

    I don’t really care whether she dances around in a bikini or burka, what I do care about is the message. And I think it would be so much more unifying and great, if we could just for once stop judging, criticising and stand together around one issue. This constant discussion who is modest, who is a better muslim, who is muslim is boring, repetitive and unimpressive.

    Where is it leading us? Nowhere.

    That is the sad reality of the muslim community – the urge to judge overrides unity. And we wonder why Islam is suffering and why the world is pointing its fingers both muslims and non-muslims?

    I for one, do believe there are more pressing issues than discussing somebodys dress, sense of modesty and other trivial matters.

    Even the Quran emphasizes that clothes have been sent to people to cover their shame. But that end of the day, the best cover and righteousness is that from the heart.

    A message conveniently left out, forgotten or deliberately hidden.

    How about we for instance concentrate on women issues and the relentless threats, boycot, censoring and deaththreats which usually surface when somebody from or outside the muslim community dares to have a different opinion or criticises the clear problems with islam, muslims and the culture. Deeyah has been lucky – so far. Many have not. But for how long?

    Threatening people to silence does not mean you confront the problems. It just means you suppress them.

  • jcmmanuel

    “just really bored with the sensationalism of it all”

    As is your comment. Everyone can play narcissist, that’s easy enough. But seeing the significance of this artist requires some thinking, and appreciating her music demands a bit of a wider vision, beyond our own grassroots culture – whatever that is.

  • jcmmanuel

    Great artist, great voice – musically as well as great in significance for a world where positive, emancipatory voices of non-Western origin are still not getting that much attention. People like Deeyah have the opportunity to tap into the cultural context of a few billion people, none of which can easily be addressed without having this affinity with Arab-Muslim cultures.